Recently, I read an article entitled “Pastoral Narcissism: The Shadow Side of Ambition” by J.R. Kerr in Christianity Today. Now, why would you ever read an article like this unless you were a glutton for conviction? I read it in order to do some needed inventory and assessment in my own life and ministry.
This first bombshell that came exploding into my life was this statement from T.S. Eliot: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm… or they do not see it, or they justify it … because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
Eliot’s words forced me to ask: How much harm have I done to my family, my friends, the people I am supposed to love and lead, all because I want to feel important and think well of myself and to have others think well of me?
How quickly ambition can become a vice rather than a virtue. Ambition can corrupt and destroy people and nations. However, there is a right kind of ambition that is helpful, necessary and even dare I say godly. The Apostle Paul in Romans 15:14-33 sets forth at least three marks of godly ambition!
Ambition is a virtue when it stems from God’s calling and not from our own drivenness (15:14-18).
Ambition is a virtue when we aim to fulfill God’s mission and not our own agenda (15:19-29)
Ambition is a virtue when we focus on partnering together in community and not live and serve in isolation (15:30-33).